Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and My Grandpa Robert

The most influential person in my life and still is to some degree was my maternal grandfather, Robert Hillary DeLozier of predominantly French American descent. Grandpa was born June 15, 1902 in Chelsea, Oklahoma and died there leap year February 24, 1988. My Grandpa was the antithesis of my Dad, his son in law, Bob Phillips. Both people very dear to me, but as opposite as night and day. Grandpa Robert loved to work, was not well educated, only completed the second grade, but encouraged me to excel in school and provided me the opportunity to do so. He was clean and tidy to a fault and although never rich, very thrifty. His favorite sayings included “a place for everything, and everything in its place”. I learned early on these wise adages do simplify and enrich life without a doubt.
Robert DeLozier circa 1940s

Upon rising in the morning the first thing my Grandfather expected any household member or guest to do was wash their face, brush their teeth, comb their hair and dress. Absolutely under no circumstances was one allowed into the kitchen or to be seen by others until these items were completed. To this day I still consider this to be the mark of civilized mankind and am appalled at those who do not live by the same code.

Now I would never say my Grandpa Robert was a saint, for he loved to smoke his cigars or a pipe, and he’d have a nip or two or three of whiskey every Saturday night. The whiskey was suppose to be hidden in his bathroom clothes closet. On Saturday nights while watching Lawrence Welk or the Tulsa wrestling matches on TV, Grandpa made several trips to the bathroom and yes he always came out smiling.

When my Grandmother Alta died suddenly of a stroke at 60 and I was 15, Grandpa rose to the occasion and became a surrogate Mom for me until I graduated high school. He fortunately had raised three daughters, so he had experience with girls. Thankfully, I always felt completely at home and at ease with my Grandpa. For example, his tactful way of trying to find out if I was in need of monthly sanitary pads was to ask me before he went to the general store if I had “come sick”.

As far as being a good provider, Grandpa Robert was top of the line. With Grandma gone I became the yearly organizer of Grandpa’s dump truck business tax figures for the local income tax man, Fraley Insurance.  Grandpa and I also changed churches. We began attending the First Christian, leaving the Church of Christ behind. Once again we heard gospel music with supporting musical instruments.  Each Sunday after church, Grandpa bought a Tulsa Daily World and I would read him the parts I thought important. Grandpa didn’t really read with only a 2nd grade education and he could only write a bit. Numbers were his forte and he lived to the tune of “waste not, want not”.

Robert DeLozier with his dump truck nearby, circa 1967
One of the best things about Grandpa Robert was his great sense of humor. He had all kinds of nick names for me as well as others. My names included Rat-Hole and Whistle-britches. For people he thought weren’t doing what they should, he referred to them as “sorry wads“.

Now my Mom his middle daughter, Bobbie Jean’s lifestyle did aggravate him to no end. The main source of this aggravation, was my folks lack of responsibility in producing kids and their lack of tidiness. He thought three kids was the max and less was more. I remember Grandpa, asking Mom, “why do you keep having more kids, Bobbie, when you aren’t taking care of what you got”? He would go on admonishing her to “get in there and do what needs to be done”, referring to cleaning and cooking. He would remind my Mom that she had not been raised that way, she knew how to do and she just needed to do it. Unfortunately Grandpa was whistling in the wind, trying to talk sense to Mom or Dad. They were free spirits with no common sense or any desire for any. Grandpa and I got to keep it all. And when they would visit, usually unannounced, Grandpa would say upon their departure, “I hate to see them come and I hate to see them go”.

Another endearing quality of Grandpa’s was his thoughtfulness. After I left home, he always remembered my birthday with a birthday card. When I moved to Alaska in 1978 he would continue to send me one yearly and include a silver dollar in it. I still have the birthday cards as well as the silver dollars. Fortunately, I haven’t yet had the need to spend them.

Grandpa Robert was an Oklahoma cowboy and only wore only cowboy boots, owned no shoes except house shoes, loved horses, animals and country music. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys were his favorite musicians. As a young man he called square dances, was involved in rodeos, kept riding horses next to the house until I was in high school. Then the horse property became a trailer rental spot, next to which we always had a huge vegetable garden even after my Grandma passed on. The first year after Grandma Alta passed, I sold the veggies by the bushel for peanuts. We had more than we could process without her.
Grandpa Robert and me, Mary Alta circa 1949
Grandpa Robert was never happier than after a hard day‘s work hauling gravel in his dump truck for Rogers county. That is with the possible exception of doing the laundry or washing dishes. I do believe his first love was scalding the dishes after washing them. He couldn’t sit down after dinner, which he usually cooked until things were cleaned and ready for the next meal.

In his younger days Grandpa wanted to be a horse jockey, but his Mom, Addie Mae Wilson DeLozier nixed that idea saying it was too dangerous. So he went into hauling, hay or whatever needed hauled with horse and mule teams including pulling oil rigs, and moving people from east to west and north to south in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Texas but no further. My Granddad did not have much of a wander lust. Grandma once wanted to go North to Montana for a change, but he knew his place, and that was his home in Chelsea, Oklahoma. He was happy with Chelsea and I was truly blessed to share that special time and place with him.
March 3, 2008/revised September 27, 2010; June 16th, 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment